When a professional organizer gets the chance to write a review for a book with the word “tidying” in the title, they jump at the opportunity. At 94 pages, The Little Book of Tidying by Beth Penn is indeed little – but packed with wisdom, tips, and the cutest illustrations you’ve ever seen.
The now famous – or infamous, depending on your POV – Life Changing Magic of Tidying up (you can read our book review here) has made tidying trendy – and Beth Penn’s clever new book is riding that wave. But this tiny tidying book takes it to the next level by focusing on science and psychology to understand HOW clutter begins, and why it is so hard to get rid of. By understanding the ‘why’ behind clutter, we can learn to prevent it from coming back. In this humble professional organizer’s opinion, this is an absolutely key part of the organizing process, and Penn nails it with this book.
Along with a deeper understanding of our own clutter-prone psyche, Penn gives tips and strategies for organizing more effectively. Because it’s short, the book can be read and re-read quickly and continually mined for gold. Despite it’s size, The Little Book of Tidying is surprisingly hefty in both content and enjoyability. The illustrations are very sweet and endearing, as is Penn’s approach and writing style.
So why DO we keep clutter?
In answer to the question of why we keep clutter if it is so bad for us, Penn explains that guilt is a huge factor in holding on to things that no longer serve us, giving the example of clothing that we’ve spent too much on and didn’t work out: “Keeping clothes that don’t fit you properly won’t magically bring back the money they cost.” Eye-opening statements like these are sprinkled throughout the book. They always ring true, and give an excellent psychological explanation of why we struggle so much to let go.
Throughout the book, Penn guides and supports even the most resistant of people. To avoid “tidying burnout”, she suggests deciding upon a set amount of time spent organizing each area. This can also help to eliminate anxieties about getting started. She likens feeling uncomfortable during the decluttering process to having sore muscles after exercise; “when you notice resistance to making a decision, power through. That’s where transformation and change are possible.” Penn provides bite-sized activities and reminders, short enough to add to your schedule (which she also recommends that you declutter, by the way).
Who should read this book?
This book is a great read for those who just need a little push of motivation to get started, and a clear, kind voice to help keep the home clutter-free after the process is complete. You won’t find yourself throwing out the vacuum because it “doesn’t spark joy” – and that’s a good thing. What you will have is a deeper understanding of why clutter happens, how to eliminate it from your life, and how to keep it that way.
You can buy Penn’s book here on Amazon. Pro tip: it would make a great stocking stuffer or holiday gift for those who love the idea of tidying, but want more support. Then they can pass it on to you when they are done decluttering!